“Wepster produces small, round kernels, making it ideal for the chocolate industry.”
–Shawn Mehlenbacher, hazelnut breeder
About the nuts: Sweet as Candy Major players in the chocolate industry are excited about this new cultivar. Stefano Gagliasso Ferrero, head of Ferrero, which is the largest buyer of hazelnuts in the world, spoke to this at the 2013 meeting of the Nut Growers Society. He urged growers at the meeting to “keep planting”. The Northwest, and specifically Oregon, is known worldwide for producing the highest quality hazelnuts. However, the supply available in the Oregon market is not enough to satisfy the needs of Ferrero and other major chocolate companies. They need more high-quality Oregon hazelnuts and especially great kernel varieties like Wepster. Wepster nuts are also a great choice for premium baked goods and other confections. Wepster produced consistently high yields of small, round kernels during its testing at the university. The nuts have a relatively high kernel percentage at 46% and some years showed a higher marketable yield than Yamhill. Additionally, the pellicle is very easily removed with dry heat, an important trait for kernel varieties.
Mature Wepster Hazelnut Tree at the OSU test plots in Corvallis
About the Tree
Wepster trees are vigorous and grower-friendly with an upright, open growth habit that makes pruning easy. The openness of the canopy should help encourage high rates of nut set and lower incidences of single-nut clusters. Their taller height also allows for easier navigation of sweeping and harvesting equipment. Wepster has shown very high resistance to Eastern Filbert Blight and bug mite. However, since other cultivars carrying the “Gasaway” resistance gene for EFB have been found not to be completely immune, it is smart for growers to monitor Wepster trees as well.
Pollination, Bloom Time and Harvest
Wepster has a very early and very long female bloom. The alleles 1 and 2 are expressed in female flowers only allele 1 is expressed in pollen. Oregon State recommends using the following as pollinizers: McDonald (60%), York (20%) and Felix (20%). Jefferson is also compatible. All suggested pollinizers also produce quality kernels. Wepster is a suitable pollinizer for Yamhill and a recommended pollinizer for McDonald, with a mid to late pollen shed. Wepster nuts are harvested about a week earlier than Barcelona.